America always has been an exceptional nation. People in other countries recognize that America is unique. It’s why so many of those fleeing foreign oppression come to the “land of the free.”
What made the U.S. great were its principles, not its officials. America was different from most other nations. It was committed to limited government and individual liberty, alien concepts in most countries. The U.S. attempted to restrain government abuse through the separation of powers, another unusual idea, especially at a time of absolute monarchs.
Federalism protected different levels of community. Not every dispute was decided at the national level. Ronald Reagan famously noted that, “the more government we can keep at the local level, in local hands, the better off we are and the more freedom we will have….”
Justice was to be equal for all. Being rich, important, influential, or a celebrity wasn’t supposed to matter before the bar of justice.
In recent years, however, America has begun increasingly to look like other nations. Not because the American people are any less exceptional. But because their leaders don’t believe that America is.
In fact, the Obama presidency could be defined by its concerted campaign to knock the U.S. off its pedestal. Barack Obama and those around him do not believe in what traditionally was called “American exceptionalism.” Every country thinks it is exceptional, he once explained. The U.S. isn’t any different.
Certainly it won’t be if he has his way. His administration has attacked every principle that set America apart. For President Obama, government is unlimited—with individual liberty only at Washington’s sufferance.
The federal government now decides which health insurance policies we must buy and from whom. New rules prevent employees from choosing greater flexibility and freedom at work. High taxes and regulations on Americans living abroad are causing an increasing number of them to simply give up their citizenship.
Separation of powers requires that law enforcement remain independent of executive control, and both Congress and the judiciary resist excessive executive authority, especially actions that are unlawful or unconstitutional. For this administration, however, ignoring the law is standard operating procedure.
The president even has promised to target our constitutionally protected gun rights through executive orders. Yet these days, our legislators and judges are likely to roll over and play dead when the president abuses his powers.
Federalism means little when the national authorities seek to impose their will on every American, no matter how personal the issue. Who should use what bathroom in a local school district? Uncle Sam will decide!
Then there is equal justice.
Most Americans have had an abiding faith that they will be treated based on what they deserve, not on what they can afford. Yet Washington usually takes care of its own.
The Left gets aroused when, say, a businessman takes advantage of the system. But they turn a blind eye when it comes to one of their own. Like presidential wannabe Hillary Clinton.
FBI Director James Comey laid out the facts that made a strong case for prosecution. Secretary Clinton dissembled shamelessly, endangered American national security, and clearly violated the law. If any mistakes were made, she said, they weren’t intentional. Imagine being prosecuted for murder and explaining that you really didn’t intend to hurt anyone. Most judges and juries would be less than impressed. But nothing was normal in this case.
What we know now is that the law is unequal. This administration routinely jails Americans who mishandle classified material. Blogger Jeff Dunetz pointed out that among those charged with crimes were the celebrated Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, as well as lesser known John Kiriakou, Shamai Leibowitz, Stephen Kim, and Jeffrey Sterling. Also prosecuted but escaping jail time was accused leaker Thomas Drake.
All claimed to be acting in service of a higher good, yet all were convicted under the Espionage Act. Even national security figures Sandy Berger and David Petraeus were prosecuted, though they got off with probation. (As befits Washington, the latter has reestablished his status as a D.C. bigwig.)
The bigger you are, contrary to the adage, the less likely you are to fall. A potential president, like Hillary Clinton, merely gets verbal a slap on the wrist. Certainly no prosecution, let along jail time. After all, she was just “careless.” Why hold her accountable for her actions?
Imagine what her presidency would be like. After nearly eight years of the current occupant we need to send in political fumigators to prevent American liberties from being overrun by officious bureaucrats. Give Hillary Clinton eight years in office and we’re not likely to recognize the American political system.
Once, America rescued banana republics from abusive governments. Today America is becoming one—without benefit of the bananas!
Our nation is and remains exceptional. But the American people must act decisively to keep it that way. We are running out of time.
[Editor’s note J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former mayor of Cincinnati, is a Senior Fellow and Policy Board member of the American Civil Rights Union.]